Theological images of marriage
I t is perhaps not usual to find a theological paper in company such as this. But as the poet quoted at the outset of Maggie Scarf book, Intimate Partners, puts it, "[in] every house of marriage there's room for an interpreter" ( Scarf, 1987, p. 7). A theologian is an interpreter of the stories people tell. He or she interprets those stories from the particular vantage point of belonging to a faith-community. Theologians can collaborate with interpreters from other disciplines in helping to draw the contemporary "map" of marriage. Perhaps it is the particular contribution of theology to draw attention to the "why" questions alongside the "how": if marriages are to work, it is important to ask why marriage exists, what it is for. That is the aim of this chapter.
It is worth making three points at the outset. (1) A very significant number of marriage ceremonies in Britain still take place in church, over half of them in the Church of England. No doubt, there are many reasons for getting married in church, not all of them consciously religious. But many couples would seem, in some way, still to want to place their marriages in the religious sphere, where language about God will be used to give